Tuck T. Saul PhD
When a child's trust is betrayed by an adult, the child feels depressed, confused, insecure & frightened.
When that child becomes an adult, the impact of experiencing neglect &/or physical, emotional or sexual abuse,
continues to have an effect on that person's life.
Abused children learn
"survival skills" like withdrawing &
distancing themselves from
all adults or trying to be perfect to seek approval from adults.
They may create fantasies to escape from the realities of their
lives; or turn off their feelings or misbehave as ways to express their underlying hurt & anger.
Because, as children, they're unable to comprehend why the abuse keeps occurring, they may conclude that it's their fault & that they're "bad" & take blame for the abuse.
Abused children frequently carry
these coping skills into adult life with results such as difficulties in developing & sustaining relationships or in making poor selections in partners.
note: I' ve had this problem. My father & his brother,
my uncle, were abusive physically, mentally & verbally. I believe there was some sexual abuse between my uncle &
He was trying to coerce her into having sexual threesomes, exchanging sexual partners with other couples &
he put her down because of her breast size. He was always buying her something that he thought would increase her bust size.
My father's abuse was very subtle. The point I’m trying to make is, that these 2 men were the most prominent
male figures in my life & when I chose someone to marry, he was abusive. My next husband was worse, he was a cop &
abusive. the next husband even worse, he tried to kill me, even when I was pregnant.
My choice of friends were
poor choices as well. I had very conniving abusive friendships. My 2nd husband ended up leaving me for my best friend &
he married her.
She told me, "I stole your
husband & now I'm going to steal your son!" & she did. She funded the custody fights that my ex-husband & I had
over my son. She was evil, coercive & dishonest.
Looking way back
in the day - even in high school, my best friend took off with my finance' for the weekend behind my back to go on
a ski weekend with him.... I remained
friends with them both, I was accepting of the abuse. I felt back then that I wasn't worth anything so I let people treat
They may have
fears about making
changes & have difficulties in coping with stress, expressing emotions, caring "too much" for
others at their own expense & ultimately accurately assessing their own worth.
Many adults struggling with these problems often have no idea that abuse / neglect in their childhood may be at the root of their current difficulties. They often find it problematic to talk about their problems with anyone, because of the guilt & shame they've carried.
The road to recovery includes acknowledging the abuse, letting the memories surface despite the pain & placing
the responsibility for the abuse
where it belongs -
ON THE ABUSER.
In addition, learning to free up emotions & actively
reducing the level of shame felt will help the abused adult to begin to recover from this trauma.
Other skills that aid the healing process include acknowledging the courage to deal with the
abuse, identifying strengths, practicing patience & compassion.
Since the problem stems from a relationship, it requires participation in a healing relationship to undue all the harm the abuses have caused. Seeking help from a professional therapist is imperative in order to make this journey to recovery.
This article was contributed by: Meers, Inc. Consulting Psychologists
Physical, Sexual Abuse of Girls
Tied to Abnormal Stress in Women New York Times
Women who were physically or sexually abused in childhood show exaggerated physiological responses
to stressful events, a new study has found. This abnormal stress response, the researchers found, appears especially pronounced in women who also have symptoms of clinical depression.
When exposed to mild stress induced in a laboratory setting, women in the study who suffered from depression & had a history of childhood
abuse showed levels of ACTH, a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland in response to stress, 6 times as high as those in women without such histories.
They also had higher levels of cortisol, another stress hormone & higher heart rates than women who hadn't been abused. Women with a history of abuse who weren't depressed also showed hypersensitivity to the stress, but to a less extreme degree.
The study's findings offer further confirmation that traumatic experiences can have a profound effect on brain chemistry & in particular on the brain's response to stress & they add to the growing body of evidence that in exploring the origins of psychiatric illness, nature
& nurture can't be easily disentangled.
"Clearly, here's an environmental event that causes changes in the brain & must interact with genetic vulnerability to influence whether or not you get this syndrome of hypersensitivity,'' said Dr. Charles B. Nemeroff, chairman
of psychiatry & behavioral sciences at Emory Univ. School of Medicine & a co-author of the study, which appears in
today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Nemeroff said the research also underlined the importance of addressing child abuse nationally.
More than 3 million cases of child abuse are reported each year, he said. "And if, indeed, this is a risk factor for developing mood & anxiety disorders,'' he continued, "this is a very large public health problem.''
Women were used in the study, he said, because they are more likely to suffer from depression than men & are more frequently the victims of sexual abuse. But he said there was no inherent reason why men wouldn't
exhibit the same response.
A history of childhood abuse, studies have shown, puts people at higher risk for developing depression, anxiety disorders & other emotional illnesses later in life. Abnormal stress responses, Nemeroff & his colleagues suggest, might to some degree account for this increased risk.
Dr. Rachel Yehuda, professor of psychiatry & director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Program at the Mount Sinai
School of Medicine, said the new study's findings "support observations that our group has made over a 10-year period about
the exquisite responsiveness of stress hormones in survivors who have sustained trauma in both childhood & adulthood.''
In a series of studies, Yehuda & her colleagues have documented abnormal stress responses in combat veterans, rape victims, survivors of the Holocaust & others.
types of abuse
Violence in the family is mostly spousal - one spouse
beating, raping or otherwise physically harming & torturing the other, but in the process the children in these families
are also victims - either directly or indirectly.
vulnerable familial groups include the elderly & the disabled.
Abuse & violence cross geographical & cultural boundaries & social & economic strata. It's common among the rich, poor, well-educated & the less so, young & middle-aged,
city dwellers & rural folk. It's a universal phenomenon.
Abusers exploit, lie, insult, demean, ignore ("silent treatment"), manipulate & control. There are many ways to abuse.
- To love too much is to
abuse. It's tantamount to treating someone as an extension, an object
or an instrument of gratification.
expect too much, denigrate,
ignore - are all modes of abuse.
The list is long. Most abusers abuse surreptitiously. They're "stealth abusers". You have to actually live with one in order to witness the abuse.
false statement deliberately presented as being true; a falsehood. Something meant to deceive or give a wrong impression.
criticize severely; rebuke. To punish, as by beating
Ignoring ("silent treatment")
There are 3 important categories of
Overt Abuse: The
open & explicit abuse of another person.
- Coercing: To
force to act or think in a certain way by use of pressure, threats, or intimidation; compel. To dominate, restrain, or control forcibly
lessen or cancel the value of.
One that's discarded or rejected
are all forms of overt abuse.
Covert or Controlling Abuse
Abuse is almost entirely about control...
in response to a
primitive & immature reaction to life circumstances in which the abuser (usually in his childhood) was rendered
helpless. It's about that abuser emerging from that helplessness to:
- re-exert one's identity
- re-establish predictability
- master the environment both human & physical
The bulk of abusive behaviors can be traced to this panicky reaction to the remote potential for loss of control. Many abusers are hypochondriacs (& difficult patients) because they're afraid to lose control over their body, its looks & its proper functioning.
They're obsessive-compulsive in an effort to subdue their physical habitat & render it foreseeable. They stalk
people & harass them as a means of "being in touch" - another form of control.
To the abuser, nothing exists outside himself. Meaningful others are
extensions, internal, assimilated, objects - not external ones. Thus, losing control over a significant other is
equivalent to losing control of a limb, or of one's brain. It's terrifying.
Independent or disobedient people evoke
in the abuser the realization that something's wrong with his worldview, that he isn't the center of the world or its cause & that he can't control what, to him, are internal
To the abuser, losing control means going insane. Other people are mere elements
in the abuser's mind, being unable to manipulate them, literally means "losing it" (his mind). Imagine, if you suddenly were
to find out that you can't manipulate your memories or control your thoughts ... Nightmarish!
In his frantic efforts to maintain control or re-assert it, the abuser resorts to a myriad
of fiendishly inventive stratagems & mechanisms. Here's a partial list:
note: I remember initially meeting my 2nd husband, who
was a sheriff's deputy in Palm Beach County, Florida. He was striking in appearance because of the extreme neatness, tidiness
of his uniform, polished shoes, very straight posture & almost an air of arrogance, but the smile saved him from appearing to be full of himself.
wasn't exactly good looking, but his overall appearance was striking. When in uniform, he could charm anyone. Similar
to my 1st husband, a pro golfer, when in public, on the golf course, he was admired & liked by all.
began to want to overwhelm me, control me & learn everything he could about me immediately. I told him intimate details of sexual problems I'd had with my 1st husband. (warning ladies, don't ever do this) He knew all the buttons to push with me very early on in our relationship.
lied to me, telling me he was divorced for the 3rd time, but in reality he was still married. He was simply separated
from his wife, another sheriff's deputy. He forced her into writing out their own divorce agreement. He took back a gift,
a boom box or stereo, that he had given me to give it to her in his divorce settlement. He worked his way around that issue,
not admitting what he was actually doing.
was too smitten anyway to notice. The warning signals were blaring, & I was deaf to them all.... kathleen
The abuser acts:
to render the dependent victims more helpless by not knowing:
- The next twist & turn of the abuser
- The next inexplicable whim
- The next uncontrollable outburst
- The most recent denial
- Or inexplicable smile (see my comment above)
The abuser makes sure that HE's
the only reliable element in the lives of his nearest & dearest by shattering the rest of their world thru his seemingly
insane behavior. He perpetuates his stable presence in their lives by destabilizing their own.
personal note: Throughout our entire marriage, he managed me, plied the details of my weaknesses out of me with smooth talking,
planned how to exploit them, then turned everything around to blame me for being weak & making mistakes to undo any sense of confidence that I had gained for myself, thus forcing me to be more dependent on him for advice.
Whenever I did make a mistake,
he didn't react in a very loving way like: "I understand honey," or "Try to not do that again." It was as if the earth was going to stop spinning as he flew into what became a very predictable session of intimidation, humiliation & degradation. He reacted this way with the children also.
He used things that I had told him intimately, about my previous husband to trigger a post traumatic stress
symptom of dissociation in me.
began having some fainting spells. i think i was having some dissociation and some for of depersonalization in this time because,
I have no memory of certain time frames.
an accident with a new car he had bought me. the tailgate's hydraulic arms on each side, suddenly popped out of place causing
the tailgate to fly upwards extremely hard & fast, then it fell just as hard and fast to hit me on top of my head. from
that time on, he told me that I wasn't myself. he believed that the accident had changed me. I was stuck in bed with a toddler
for almost 6 weeks with a severe concussion and other muscle problems in my neck and back.
he left me there, in the room with the baby. he couldn't find
any way to help me. I was physically helpless, and he wouldn't let me forget it was my fault. I was to blame for not being able to take care of the baby. Somehow he was trying to make me believe that
the accident was my fault. kathleen
One of the favorite
tools of manipulation in the abuser's arsenal is the disproportion of his reactions.
He reacts with supreme rage to the slightest slight. He'd punish severely for what he perceives to be an offense against him, no matter how minor.
He'd throw a temper tantrum over any discord or disagreement, however
gently & considerately expressed. He'd act inordinately attentive, charming & tempting (even over-sexed, if need be).
This ever-shifting code of conduct &
the unusually harsh & arbitrarily applied penalties are premeditated.
The victims are kept in the dark. Neediness & dependence on the source of "justice" meted & judgment passed on the abuser - are thus guaranteed.
Dehumanization & Objectification (Abuse)
have a need to believe in the empathic skills & basic good-heartedness of others. By dehumanizing & objectifying people, the abuser attacks the very foundations human interaction.
This is the "alien" aspect of abusers; they may be excellent imitations of fully formed adults but they're
Abuse is so horrid, repulsive
& phantasmagoric - that people recoil in terror. When their defenses are down they're the most susceptible & vulnerable to the abuser's control.
psychological, verbal & sexual abuse are all forms of dehumanization & objectification.
the 1st moments of an encounter with another person, the abuser is on the prowl.
He collects information. The more he knows about his potential victim,
the better able he is to coerce, manipulate, charm, extort
or convert it "to the cause".
The abuser doesn't
hesitate to misuse the info he gleaned, regardless of its intimate nature or the circumstances in which he obtained it. This is a powerful tool in his armory.
Always on your
Do you worry about
what he will think about your make-up? Or how you dress?
Do you ask him who
you can go see or where you can go?
Are you careful of what you say so that he'll not get upset?
Do you feel you're "walking on eggshells"?
The abuser engineers impossible, dangerous, unpredictable,
unprecedented, or highly specific situations in which he is sorely needed.
The abuser makes sure that his knowledge, skills, connections, or traits are the only ones applicable & the most useful in the situations that he, himself, wrought. The abuser generates his own indispensability.
Control by Proxy
all else fails, the abuser recruits:
- Family members
- The authorities
- The media
- In short, 3rd parties
to do his bidding.
He uses them to:
He controls these unaware instruments exactly as he plans to control his ultimate prey. He employs the same mechanisms & devices. He dumps his props
unceremoniously when the job is done.
- & Otherwise manipulate his target
Another form of control by proxy is to engineer situations in which abuse is inflicted upon another person. Carefully crafted scenarios of embarrassment & humiliation provoke social sanctions (condemnation,
opprobrium, or even physical punishment) against the victim. Society,
or a social group becomes the instruments of the abuser.
Putting you down:
Does he call you
names like "stupid", "bitch" or "whore"?
Does he tell you
what is "wrong" w/you in front of other people?
Has he made you do
things that make you feel ashamed?
Does he say that no one else would want you
or love you?
personal note: he told me, "I'll love you just a little bit more if you lose another 10 pounds."
Ambient Abuse is...
the fostering, propagation & enhancement of an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability,
are no acts of traceable explicit abuse.
There are no apparent manipulative settings of control.
Yet, the irksome feeling remains, a disagreeable foreboding, a premonition,
a bad omen. This is sometimes called "gaslighting".
In the long term, such an environment erodes the
victim's sense of self-worth & self-esteem. Self-confidence is shaken badly. The victims adopts a paranoid or schizoid stance & thus renders himself or herself
exposed even more to criticism & judgment.
The roles are thus reversed: the victim is considered mentally deranged
& the abuser - the suffering soul.
Feeling sick &
Does he keep you
up late asking you about men in your past?
Do you work so hard
to please him that you feel worn out?
Do you feel sick,
yet you're not sure what's wrong?
Are you unable to do things you used to do easily?
abuse that affects
women, children & men within the cycle of violence & encompassing the possibility of physical, mental & sexual abuse
In our desire to spread understanding & compassion to women in abusive relationships, we've compiled a group of articles on some of the reasons, warning
signs & solutions to abusive relationships.
What is Battering?
Battering is a pattern of behavior used to establish
power & control over another person thru fear & intimidation, including the
threat or use of violence. Battering happens when one person believes they're entitled to control another. Assault, battering & domestic violence
Why Do Men Batter
Many theories have been developed to explain why some men use violence
against their partners. These theories include:
Why Do Women Stay?
All too often the question
"Why do women stay in violent relationships?" is answered with a victim blaming attitude. Women victims of abuse often hear
that they must like or need such treatment, or they would leave.
Barriers to Leaving a
why women stay generally fall into 3 major categories: Lack
of Resources, Institutional Responses & Traditional
Predictors Of Domestic Violence
The following signs often occur before actual abuse & may serve as clues
to potential abuse.
over the following questions. Think about how you're being treated & how you treat your partner. Remember, when one person scares, hurts or continually puts down the other person, it's abuse.
The female partner feels:
within the relationship. This type of emotional
abuse can make an abused woman feel helpless & isolated.
Jealousy, possessiveness & interrogation about whereabouts & activities are controlling behaviors which can severely restrict a female partner's independence & freedom. Social & financial isolation may leave her dependent upon the abuser for social contact money & the necessities of life.
don't cope -
take the first step & get out!
then begin the
process of the abuse victim's recovery....
education is the key to understanding what you must do to leave your abuser - help yourself
or help someone who needs to know
- First & foremost, in your own mind, separate the behavior from the person
- You can make a difference
- Approach as a peer, don't assume a one up or one down position
- Emphasize that Violence is against the law
Use the basic skills that most counselors employ:
Share your reality & validate the facts that violence isn't a solution
- There's no excuse for abuse
or to "cause" another to be violent
- Share the characteristics of
those who batter
- After they've vented, begin
to problem solve
- Prioritize: a commitment to nonviolence is first
- Devise a safety plan.
- Teach them the time out
- Point out alternatives & consequences of returning to the situation
- Bolster their self-worth: acknowledge that they're a valuable person.
- Point out that it's their behavior
that is unacceptable not them as a person
- Share the Cycle of Violence,
pointing out that it only gets worse. A "wait & see" attitude is an invitation to repeat the cycle
- Share the "Time
out" as a way to "break the
- Empower them to seek treatment & refer
them to a qualified Batterer's Treatment Program
note: when i was a child, i remember being sent to various
relatives houses for summer vacation. two weeks here, two weeks there, until finally the summer was about over and i was sent
home, (usually by plane, i was flying alone
at a very young age) just in time to be humiliated with
school clothes time. my mother never liked the way clothes fit me. i was too short, my butt was too big, i was too short waisted,
it was always something. i didn't have a choice as to what i was going to wear anyway. she bought my clothes and one pair
of shoes. I never knew people had more than one pair of shoes, besides sneakers, that is. One pair of dress shoes and one
pair of sneakers, was normal.
Anyway, my mother's
sister, married my father's brother. it's a bit confusing, but they lived in a very tiny town in upstate new york. if
you blinked your eye while driving thru town, you'd miss it if you weren't careful. now i realize that he was isolating her
from her sisters, her parents and friends. he was isolating her from society.
my uncle was
very physically abusive to his children. they had four kids. his oldest son was slightly younger than i was. i was the oldest
child in the generation. he was particularly cruel to this eldest son. he verbally attacked him, humiliating him, berating
him mercilessly, demeaning and degrading him. he would push him down on the ground and then kick him into the house with his
heavy work boots on. my cousin would be crying and pleading for him to stop, but it only spurned his anger more. it only caused
him to yell and bitterly attack him further.
i stood back,
watching this behavior. my aunt did too. my other cousins watched as well. no one dared to try to stop him. it was total silence.
after my cousing would get up, holding different sore parts of his body, crying, weeping, sobbing, and limping he would slowly
escape to his bedroom.
my uncle would
turn suddenly, look at me watching him, and change instantly into my "wonderful, nice, loving uncle," as if nothing had just
transpired. my entire life, he has never said a cross word to me or been angry with me. he has always hugged me, loved me
and been an excellent conversationalist with me.
my uncle was
a beer drinker back in those days. i think he drank a case a day back then, the old Genessee beer. he graduated to hard liquor.
and he was just as mean to his other children, tearing clumps of hair out of their heads, simply swinging to hit them, punch
them, tormenting them with screaming, yelling outrageously mean and horrible things. he'd pull down their pants anywhere he
was standing & start giving them the belt. i didn't know whether to be afraid of him or to love him. kathleen
Agency Finishes Study on Family Abuse Levels As It Plans to Set Up Support Network to Deal with Problem
Preventing domestic violence
With the completion of its yearlong study, a nonprofit group is one step closer to
formulating a “community-based response” to domestic violence in
“The goal was to see what's happening & to support people already involved in this kind of work & build on what they're doing,” said Ramesh Kumar, research
& outreach coordinator for the Manhattan-based organization called Connect.
Research, which began last August & ended July 28, was conducted in Jackson Heights,
Corona, Elmhurst & East Elmhurst. The study tried to assess the level of family violence in communities & to provide
information for the drafting of prevention & intervention strategies.
Analysis of data should be finished in September.
The organization convened 6 focus groups, conducted 250 person-on-the-street surveys &
interviewed representatives from about 60 community-based organizations, such as health clinics, senior centers & religious
Questions were on a number of topics. Participants were asked for their opinions on the criminal justice system's handling
of family violence & on the amount of attention given to the problem by
Subjects were asked if they would intervene if they saw a man hitting his wife &
whether or not public education has been effective against child abuse. Data collection
was the first phase.
Next, the organization plans to share its findings & help build a support network. The 3rd
& final phase will be to ensure that this network is readily available & self-sustaining.
The initiative, called the Community Empowerment Program, began in 2000 & has
focused, so far, on 3 boroughs. Research also was done in Brooklyn & the Bronx. A May 2004 findings report stated that
“knowledge & awareness of domestic violence & child abuse may be relatively high,” in these 2 boroughs, but “specific & culturally appropriate resources ...
were sorely lacking.
it said, “don't generally know where women & families can turn for help.”
Immigrant families can be reluctant to seek help. Some “come from places where
there's war & they don't trust government-related organizations,” Kumar said.
Domestic abuse is a “problem that is coming out more & more, but it's still
hidden,” said Reshma Shah, a counselor at the Queens Child Guidance Center's Asian Clinic in Elmhurst.
“We have a few cases who walk in & say, 'I'm having a problem,' but most are referred to us by child administrative
services, substance abuse centers & hospitals.”
The clinic, which provides mental health services, hosted a South Asian focus group. Connect
also relied on Hispanic, gay & youth focus groups.
“Teens need to be more aware of these issues,” said Jesse Taylor, of the Latin American Integration Center in Woodside, which provided space for the
study & worked with Connect to publish a “Teen Relationship Violence” brochure. “Some young people don't
even know that they're in abusive relationships,” he said.
Kumar, who lives in Astoria, noted recurrent concerns when talking to subjects of
the study. “What is clear is that people would appreciate more training & support around these issues,” he said. “Many organizations said they want us
to come in & do workshops for staff, community members & clients.”
Others called for increased collaboration between service agencies. Social service agencies
first addressed family violence in the 1970's, according to the 2004 findings report. Since then, resources for combating
the problem have been increasingly allocated to courts & law enforcement.
The Community Empowerment Program is centered around what Kumar calls a “community-based
& preventative” approach. Founded in 1993, Connect was originally called the Family Violence Project of the Urban
The organization assists child welfare agencies in working with abused women & children, provides legal information to victims navigating the courts & runs a training institute for professionals
who deal with domestic abuse cases.
“We want to engage every member of the community: victims, bystanders & abusers,” Kumar
John E. Thomas
14 September 2004
Does he demand that
dinner be served right on the minute?
Does he insist that
the house look just so?
Do you have to report
how you spend every dollar?
Many good cops also batterers
by Rob Carson & Lisa Kremer
The News Tribune
Police officers hate to hear it & in the post-Sept. 11 world, it's not popular to say.
But the news of Tacoma Police Chief David Brame's marital disaster put a spotlight on one of the darkest corners of
the law enforcement profession - cops who abuse their spouses.
Studies indicate that domestic abuse is far more common among police officers than in the general population.
Their training makes them particularly well-equipped to abuse, sociologists say & their status in the
community & the close-knit, almost tribal nature of their profession makes them frighteningly adept at getting away with it.
"Police officers are the most sophisticated,
advantaged abusers we deal with," said Anne O'Dell, a former police officer & a nationally recognized expert on domestic violence.
"They have so many advantages, it's pathetic."
After the Brames' contentious divorce became public, a half - dozen women in the Tacoma area contacted The News Tribune,
saying they'd had abusive relationships with law enforcement officers.
The women asked not to be identified in print because they still
fear their husbands. One said she lives in fear even though she & her husband have been separated for years.
been me," another victim said, referring to Crystal Brame. "That would've been me. If they hadn't arrested him, it would've
All of the women interviewed said they wanted to share their stories because they were
convinced other women need encouragement to leave abusive relationships & because they believe the system that cooperates to hide
abuse by police must change to prevent more deaths.
"If saying something
is going to help one person, I've got to do it," one woman said.
Domestic abuse by police is so rarely reported & even more rarely prosecuted - that reliable statistics
are impossible to come by. But a handful of experts cited by women's advocates
indicate that spousal abuse is more common in law enforcement families than in the general population.
Two studies - one published in "Police Studies" in 1992 & another published in 1991 by the National
Institute of Justice - have found that at least
40% of police officer families experience domestic violence.
As it turns out, many of the bizarre-sounding contradictions in David Brame's case - the allegations
that he was the victim, the tough public stance he took on domestic violence issues, allegations of his unrelenting desire for control - were so typical they could've been taken straight out of a domestic violence handbook.
The women who talked about their abuse to The News Tribune said their experiences were uncannily
similar to the ones Crystal Brame described to a psychologist in a report filed in her divorce case.
to the weighing, the going to the OB-GYN, the mileage," one woman said. "Your resources are completely controlled or completely removed. Life outside the home is discouraged. The blueprint that these guys follow is amazing."
Not all cops abusive
O'Dell, who retired as a career police officer w/the San Diego Police Department in
1995, now trains criminal justice professionals on domestic abuse issues, giving workshops w/titles
like "Cops who Batter."
She hastens to say that by no means are all police officers abusive. "This isn't across the board," she said. "When people hear this, they
always say, 'Oh no. What are you saying about cops?'"
But, generally speaking, O'Dell said, it's true that law enforcement officers tend to
have a special problem with domestic violence. "They have enormous power, enormous discretion & they end up abusing it," she said.
Penny Harrington, also a former police officer, agrees that law enforcement agencies
have unique problems w ith domestic violence. Harrington spent 23 years as a police officer in Portland, including
18 months as chief.
Later, she helped found the National Center for Women & Policing, a division of
the Feminist Majority Foundation & she now works from her California office as an expert witness in employment discrimination
"I do think policing draws certain types of people to it - some good, some not so good," Harrington said.
Some are drawn to the work because they believe the badge allows them to wield power, she said. "And that's what we're talking about in domestic violence - power & control."
The women who talked to The News Tribune added their personal testimony to that theory.
Again & again, they described their relationships w/officers as if their husbands were teachers or parents, rather than
"I'd get into trouble,"
they said, or "I'd be punished."
Their policemen husbands kept meticulous accounts of where they were at all times, the
women said. Two women said their husbands tracked their mileage, just as Crystal Brame said her husband did.
One woman said her husband would call her workplace to find out if she was really there.
Another said her husband thought a new blouse she'd been given was too low cut, so he ripped it off her.
One said her husband watched as she weighed herself every day, just as Crystal Brame
said her husband had done. And, as Brame said of her husband, the woman said her police officer husband insisted on coming
to her gynecological appointments.
Like Crystal Brame, some of the women said their husbands didn't allow them to have
"I had one girlfriend & I was allowed to go to her house for an hour or two," one
woman said. "I wasn't even allowed to open the front shades of my house."
"It's very isolating," another woman said. "Life outside the home is discouraged."
make good batterers'
Victims' & women's advocates say the training police officers receive, beginning
at police academies, can hone the skills of effective abuse.
"A lot about being
a good cop leads right into being a really excellent batterer," O'Dell said.
"Cops are trained
to do interrogations," she said. "We're taught always to dominate when
threatened in the field. We're taught the art of manipulation, which is very handy for a batterer. And we're taught always to emerge the victor if we get into any kind of physical confrontation."
Officers are taught to intimidate by their voice & presence & to use their bodies as weapons,
she said. They learn how to physically subdue people w/out leaving marks.
"I had a torn (tendon); I was strangled until I lost consciousness,"
one victim said. "They're all police academy maneuvers that they learn on the job & in a heartbeat they're used against
Women's advocates say abusive cops routinely use their handcuffs
& nightsticks at home. Worst of all, O'Dell said, is the constant presence of guns.
"Weapons are around
all the time," O'Dell said. "They put the gun in her ear, in her mouth or play Russian roulette. They say, trust me, no one will believe it wasn't an accident."
One alleged victim who came forward said her husband turned his gun on on her several
"I've had guns held to my head," she said. "I've had them held to my mouth, I've been
backed into a wall w/a gun to my mouth."
During separations or divorce proceedings, officers' knowledge of surveillance techniques
makes them intimidating stalkers, the women say.
One said that when she finally left her husband, "I got an unlisted phone number. He had that number within a day."
Society regards them highly
Society's high regard for police officers also figures into the equation, according to O'Dell. "We're made to feel we're special," she said. "What happens when a cop dies? There's 4 miles of cars.
It's on TV."
"All of it feeds into the way batterers
feel," O'Dell said. "They feel they're very special, that they're entitled to use whatever means to get what they want.
also, that self-centered thing, the feeling that your whole world revolves around you. If you have those feelings in the first place, they're made bigger by the profession.
That works to an officer's advantage in the courtroom, victims say, where they know how to present themselves &
their jobs give them instant credibility.
"For the spouse, that's imprinted on her psyche," O'Dell said. She believes it's impossible to get help, that no one will believe her."
To further destroy a victim's credibility, Harrington said, police officers methodically lay groundwork for a case that
their wife has mental problems or is sexually promiscuous or that she has substance abuse problems.
The practice is common enough that O'Dell has a name for it that she uses in her workshops. She calls it the "Nuts,
sluts, drunk or drug" tactic.
"It's horrible, because they make you think that nobody's going to believe you," one woman who spoke to The News Tribune said, her voice shaking.
"(They) keep you in submission &
all along they make it feel like it was your fault."
For a long time, Harrington said, police didn't consider domestic violence a serious crime -
even though they hated answering the calls. Instead, she said, they turned a blind eye to what was considered a family problem.
"I think a lot of them still feel that way," she said.
Harrington said she's working with researchers at California Polytechnic State University who're trying to determine
how many police agencies nationwide have policies in place on police officer domestic violence.
In some departments, Harrington said, "we're being met with laughs."
Can the cycle of domestic violence be broken?
Harrington believes it can, but only if it's interrupted early & the abuser is committed to changing.
Harrington ultimately believes that breaking the cycle is important to everyone in the community.
"Do you want someone
who beats their wife responding to domestic
violence in your community?" she asked.
Debbie Cafazzo contributed to this report.
Rob Carson 253-597-8693
Lisa Kremer 253-597-8658
What we can do about bullying
Professor Ken Rigby
University of South Australia
Bullying in schools isn't a new phenomenon, but it's only recently that it's become
recognized as a major problem for schools. Fortunately, effective methods have
now been developed & are being employed in some schools in Australia to reduce its incidence & mitigate the effects.
We must begin by being clear about what bullying is
& what it isn't. It can be usefully defined as repeated oppression, physical or psychological, of a less powerful individual by a more powerful individual or group.
It's not the same thing as conflict, violence or disagreement although it may, of course, involve all these things.
With bullying there's always a power imbalance which makes the ill-treatment of a victim possible.
The phenomena of bullying
are often described using such terms as harassment, teasing & peer abuse. Bullying is the most general term available to us as it can include a wide range of
hurtful behaviors, encompassing physically injurious actions, such as:
- hitting & kicking
- verbal forms of harassment, such as name-calling
- indirect means of hurting others
Examples of the latter include:
In schools verbal harassment
is the most commonly observed form of bullying; physical bullying the least. Although boys & girls may engage in all these behaviors, indirect bullying is more commonly found among girls; physical bullying among boys.
Increasing awareness of bullying & its effects
Schools are unlikely to adopt useful policies & practices against bullying unless there's a general recognition first among staff that it can constitute a serious problem for a substantial minority of students.
We now know that in Australian schools at least 1 child in 6 is bullied by peers on a weekly basis. Among these,
some aren't greatly troubled, but others do become seriously depressed, have few (if any) friends, stay home from school because
of bullying & may become quite ill because of it.
A person's self-esteem may remain low for a lifetime if bullied continually
at school. Sometimes teachers concede that
it may be a problem in some schools, but not theirs. (this happens more times than not, when a child will report to a teacher that a bully is bothering them & the teacher turns them away, not willing to deal with
the situation...kathleen) In such cases a carefully conducted
survey is needed to test student opinion.
Such inquiries invariably show that bullying is prevalent & that some children are being badly harmed. There are now carefully
developed & validated questionnaires available for use with students; i.e., the Peer Relations Questionnaire (Rigby & Slee, 1993,1997, Rigby 1997).
An effective anti-bullying
Many schools are now recognizing that a specific anti-bullying policy is needed if a school is to significantly reduce bullying. This is
distinct from a general behavior management plan, although in some respects it may overlap with it.
These elements are commonly included in anti-bullying policies:
(i). A statement of the school policy which is to promote positive interpersonal relations between members of the school community & specifically to prevent bullying & harassment at school, which is seen as unacceptable.
The policy must be seen as applying not only between students but as involving school
staff as well. Teachers sometimes bully & may be bullied by, students.
(ii). A clear definition of bullying with examples.
(iii). A description of how the school proposes to deal with bully / victim problems.
(iv). Encouragement for both students & parents with concerns about bullying to speak with school personnel about
The process by which the policy is developed is crucial. It should begin with a program designed
to raise awareness among staff of the problem of bullying generally & then seek to discover exactly what's
happening in one's own school.
There are useful videos for raising staff & student awareness & both research & popular
literature on the subject. Subsequently, the policy should be developed with the active cooperation of all the interested
parties: teachers, students & parents.
The policy should be widely disseminated & re-evaluated in the light of subsequent developments.
Links with the
Links with the curriculum can strongly reinforce the anti-bullying policy. Content relevant to problems of abuses of power can be included in a variety
of subjects including Social Studies, English & History.
Questions focusing upon aspects of interpersonal behavior such as prejudice, discrimination
& violence can be examined; basic skills underlying the practice of pro-social behavior may be usefully developed.
Staff interaction with students
How staff interact with students has important consequences for the level of bullying in a school. Teachers may have a significant impact in a number of ways:
(i) By expressing disapproval of bullying whenever it occurs, not only in the classroom but
also in the school playground.
(ii) By listening sympathetically to students who need support when they're victimized. Teachers may then initiate or take action, when requested to do so by victimized children, according to procedures approved by the school.
(iii) By encouraging cooperative learning in the class room & by not setting a bad example by their own dominating or authoritarian
(iv) By talking with groups of students about bullying & mobilizing student support for action to reduce bullying, for example, by including victimized students in their activities. (Most students
are in fact against bullying & given the chance, can provide not only active support for the school policy but also make positive proposals & undertake constructive actions to counter bullying).
Because students who are victimized are much more likely to seek help from students rather than teachers, there's much to be said for selecting & helping
to train students to provide assistance to peers in need of help.
Roles may be specially created for interested students to help with problems of peer relations,
such as in:
Such work can have a transforming effect on the school ethos. It also provides students
with the opportunity to experience success in helping relationships.
Normally the lead in such developments will be taken by the School Counselor who would
undertake to provide appropriate training & guidance.
Dealing with cases of bullying
Despite the preventative measures that can be taken in schools, instances of bullying will occur & require a systematic approach in dealing with them.
Each school must devise its preferred method. But here are some suggestions based upon an
examination of the effectiveness of alternative approaches used by schools in Australia & overseas.
Counseling: It's generally agreed that some form
of counseling or discussion with students involved in bully / victim incidents
should occur before sanctions are even considered.
Depending on the nature & seriousness of the bullying, changes in relationships between students involved in bullying can often be effected without the use of intensive interrogation & punishment.
Indeed, because subtle forms of bullying can often be practiced without detection, it's extremely difficult to control bullying by strictly disciplinary means.
The method of shared concern: One of the most effective
methods of resolving bully / victim problems has been proposed by the Swedish
psychologist, Anatol Pikas (1989).
This method involves preliminary talks, first with students who have engaged in bullying, then w/their victims; subsequently, if more than one person has participated in
the bullying (which is frequently the case), the entire group is brought together for final mediation & resolution w/the person who has been
For maximum effectiveness, intensive training by staff in this method is needed, but the principles are clear & can be used to guide interviews with bullies. It's generally best to see bullies on their own,
without their supporters.
Alone, they're often prepared to share the teacher's or counselor’s expressed
concern for the victim & accept some responsibility for the distress that has been reported, more especially if they're shown respect as persons & not interrogated as criminals & severely blamed.
The role of the teacher is largely to elicit suggestions & concrete proposals from the
bully that'll help the situation. The implementation of the proposals & the outcome for the victim need to be carefully monitored & contact maintained w/the bullies until the situation has
In most, if not all cases, the problem can be solved in this way.
The use of sanctions: Despite counseling & efforts to encourage the bully to feel concern for the victim & undertake responsible action to improve relationships, the problem may still remain unsolved & the victim needs protecting.
Serious talks with the
bully & his or her parents will then
be necessary, non-physical sanctions may be imposed & in the most serious cases suspension, exclusion or expulsion may be justified (see Olweus, 1993).
Support for victimized students
Whilst it's quite unacceptable to blame victims for their plight, there are students who can be encouraged & helped to become more
resilient & to develop assertiveness skills in order to reduce the likelihood of being bullied by others.
In some schools, training for such students is being provided in groups & positive results have been reported in terms of decreased vulnerability & enhanced self-esteem (see Rigby & Sharp, 1993).
Finally, although the responsibility of schools is for student behavior at school, it must be appreciated that much bullying occurs when students are between home
Students can be helped by being informed about Safety Houses in the neighborhood,
which they may be able to enter if seriously threatened. Police officers can be invited to schools to provide this information.
Conclusion: Bullying is presently seen as a serious problem for all schools.
We must think not simply & only of directly suppressing bullying but more
positively of promoting among students cooperative & pro-social ways of thinking & behaving.
In this way the school ethos which contains elements that often foster intimidatory behavior can be changed.
The gains are most notable for the well-being of students who are particularly vulnerable to bullying. But all students benefit in the process of bringing
about a happier & more constructive school climate in which every students has the opportunity to achieve success, socially as well as academically.
The changes that are needed aren't beyond the resources of schools. They do however require concerted attention from members of the school community, both teachers & students. There are now available abundant resources for those who can lead the way in reducing bullying & improving the quality of life for this generation of students now.
From The Professional Reading Guide for Educational
Administrators, Vol. 17, No. 1
it's in the news....
School Bullying Stresses Perpetrators & Victims: Study finds harassment takes its toll on all involved
in the usa
Doing something about bullying
"What bothers me most when we look
at ways to stop bullying," writes Michele Elliott, author of the new book 101 Ways to Deal with Bullying, "is that increasing
numbers of adults either seem to ignore what's happening or are just plain afraid to help." Childcare workers can't continue to ignore the problem. Below are some helpful tips from this important new book.
What is bullying?
is the use of aggression with the intention of hurting another person.
It results in pain & distress for the victim, who has in no way provoked the attack. Usually the bullying
is a campaign against a child, but there may be just one incident. Bullying
(see article above for more details on the above factors)
Signs of Bullying
Often children don't come right out & say that they've been bullied, so all parents need to be aware of the signs. Ask your child if he or she:
- becomes frightened of walking to or from school or changes the normal route
- doesn't want
to travel on the school bus
- begs to be driven
- is unwilling
to go to school or 'feels ill' every morning
- begins to bunk
- begins to do
poorly in schoolwork - comes home with clothes or books destroyed
- has unexplained
scratches or bruises
- comes home starving
(bully has taken lunch money or lunch)
- asks for money
or begins to steal
- becomes withdrawn,
starts stammering, shows lack of confidence
- becomes distressed & anxious, stops eating
- becomes aggressive, surly & unreasonable
- attempts or threatens suicide
- cries in bed
at night, has night mares
- refuses to say
- begins to bully siblings or other children
Who are the victims?
Most victims of bullying are sensitive, intelligent & gentle children who have good relationships with their parents. They don't come from families full of conflict & shouting, so when bullies attack them, they don't know what to
From the bully's viewpoint,
they make excellent targets because they're nice & won't fight back. They might even cry, a bonus for the bully. There are, however, some children who get bullied everywhere, at school parties, activities, clubs. It's as if they invite bullying because it confirms their low opinion of themselves, that they're worthless & deserve what is happening to them.
What sort of child bullies?
According to Michele Elliott, children & young people who frequently bully do seem to share certain common characteristics. They often:
There are also bullies who are self-confident, spoilt children who expect, as their right, to get their own way. Some bullies simply enjoy
being in charge & may obtain status from their position as leader.
Other children may bully once in a while
because of some sort of upheaval in their lives, such as problems at home, bereavement in the family, birth of a baby &
Where is it likely to happen?
Bullying usually takes place out of sight of the school staff:
- in the lunch
- on the playground
- in corridors
- on the way to
& from school
What to do if your
child is being bullied
Let's talk about it.' If your
child doesn't want to talk immediately, children are often ashamed of being bullied, say that you're there & willing to listen, night or day, when he or she is ready.
- Try not to overreact,
even if you're furious. It might frighten your child into silence & victims need to talk, not retreat.
- Ask if he or
she has any suggestions about changing the situation.
- Find out how fearful your child is & make sure that he or she feels protected.
- Keep a watchful
eye, because children can become desperate when they're being bullied & may run away or take an overdose, because everything seems so hopeless to them. Take any threats of suicide seriously & seek help.
- Praise your child,
make it clear how much you love & support him or her
- Encourage your child to develop a sense of humor & a way of throwing off taunts.
- Try to sort out
the bullying as quietly & constructively as possible,
- Contact a class
- Try to give the
situation time to change.
- If there's no
improvement, contact the principal or, failing that, the school's governing body.
- If that doesn't
help, contact your local education authority.
- If you feel confident enough, you may contact the bully's parents, but obviously it'll
depend on the family, some people not only bully their own children but threaten anyone who comes near them. It's best to check out the situation carefully before getting involved.
- If your child
has been injured, contact the police.
Is your child a bully?
Once in a while, a child could lash out & suddenly start bullying. Sometimes it happens because the child was being bullied himself & could stand it no longer. Be very careful not to start blaming your child until you have all the facts about why the bullying
Possible reasons why a child may turn into a bully:
- jealousy of a brother or sister or other children
- stress because of school work or exams
- worry about a problem that has cropped up at home, such as parents fighting or separating, a bereavement, money problems,
the death of a pet
- quarrelling with
a friend & venting their anger on someone else
- frustration due to learning or language difficulties
- having a bad day, when everything seems to be going wrong
Some children go from incident to incident, from school to school, bullying & hurting others. These children may eventually end up being excluded from mainstream education. Many have certain characteristics
in common. They may:
be bullied by family members
be the scapegoats
in the family, who are blamed for everything, even if it's not their fault
feel under pressure to succeed when they're in fact failing
have poor social
stupid or inadequate
come from a home
with a culture of violence
Some chronic bullies are children who are overindulged
to the point of being worshipped by their parents & expect that everyone should do likewise.
Crack the code
1. Become 'telling' communities. The principal makes it clear that bullying is unacceptable; that bullies will not be tolerated. The children have
an obligation to tell if they're bullied or witness bullying.
2. Children must be able to rely on a sympathetic & helpful response if they do tell. In this way, they learn that speaking out will make things better; keeping quiet will
make things worse.
Experience has shown that bullying
is less likely to happen in schools that have a clear policy against it.
very important additional resources....
TIP for dealing with abusive behavior (this is part of beginning to accept responsibility for your recovery from night eating)
- Refuse to accept such behavior.
- Demand reasonably predictable & rational
actions & reactions.
- Insist on respect for your boundaries, predilections, preferences & priorities.
a just & proportional treatment. Reject or ignore unjust & capricious behavior.
If you're up to the inevitable confrontation,
react in kind. Let him taste some of his own medicine.
Never show your abuser that you're afraid of him. Don't negotiate with bullies. They're insatiable. Dont succumb to
If things get rough, disengage, involve law enforcement officers, friends
& colleagues, or threaten him (legally). Don't keep your abuse a secret. Secrecy is the abuser's weapon.
Never give him a 2nd chance. React with your full arsenal to the 1st transgression.
Be guarded. Don't be too forthcoming in a first or casual meeting. Gather intelligence.
yourself. Don't misrepresent your wishes, boundaries, preferences, priorities & red lines. Don't behave inconsistently. Don't go back on your word. Be firm & resolute.
Often the abuser's proxies are unaware of their role.
Expose him. Inform them. Demonstrate to them how they're being abused, misused & plain used by the abuser.
Trap your abuser. Treat
him as he treats you. Involve others. Bring it into the open. Nothing like sunshine to disinfest abuse.
Stay away from such quagmires. Scrutinize every offer & suggestion, no matter how innocuous.
backup plans. Keep others informed of your whereabouts & apprised of your situation. Be vigilant & doubting. Don't be gullible & suggestible. Better safe than sorry.
Run! Get away! Ambient abuse often develops to overt & violent abuse. You don't owe anyone an explanation - but you owe yourself a life. Bail out.
Study Says 20% of Girls Reported
Abuse by a Date
By ERICA GOODE
Their faces are far younger than those that appear in public service advertisements about domestic violence. They're too young to drink legally & in many cases, too young to vote.
But a new report suggests that 1 in 5 adolescent girls become the victims of physical or sexual violence or both, in a dating relationship.
And the experience of such violence, the researchers found, is frequently associated with serious health problems, including
drug abuse, unhealthy weight control practices, risky sexual behavior, teenage pregnancy & suicide attempts.
Of the high school girls, ages 14 to 18, surveyed in the study, about 20% reported that they'd been hit, slapped, shoved
or forced into sexual activity by a dating partner.
Dr. Jay Silverman, an assistant professor of health & social behavior at the Harvard School of Public Health &
the lead author of the report, called the numbers "extremely high."
It appears today in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
"Unfortunately," Dr. Silverman said,
"the prevalence estimate isn't surprising considering what we know about intimate partner violence with adult women."
In a recent national survey, 25% of adult women reported
being the victims of violence by a romantic partner.
Commenting on Dr. Silverman's study, Esta Soler, the executive director of the Family Violence Prevention Fund in San
Francisco, said: "Those are disturbingly high statistics for young women. Adolescence is such a hard developmental time anyway & young girls feel so off balance
in so many respects that to now learn that violence is such a factor in their lives is very disturbing."
Ms. Soler said the study provided hard data to back up what those who work in the field of domestic violence had suspected for many years.
Dr. Silverman said the findings underscored the need for more prevention programs & services for both the victims & the perpetrators of adolescent abuse.
The researchers analyzed responses to a single question about dating violence in both the 1997 & 1999 versions of
the Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, part of a national assessment of public high school students, grades 9 thru
12, in schools across the country.
Students were asked if they'd ever been hurt physically or sexually by a date or someone they were going out with. They responded by indicating, "No, I wasn't
hurt by a date," "Yes, I was hurt physically," "Yes, I was hurt sexually," or "Yes, I was hurt physically & sexually."
The survey, administered in randomly selected classrooms, also included questions about smoking, drinking, thinking about or attempting suicide, sexual intercourse, condom use, pregnancy & unhealthy eating behaviors like laxative abuse or self-induced vomiting.
Of 1,977 high school girls who participated in the survey in 1997, 20.2% said they had been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner. In 1999, 18% of 2,186 girls said they'd been the victims of physical or sexual violence.
In both years, the majority of girls who
reported sexual abuse said they'd also been physically abused.
The study is the most comprehensive to examine dating violence among adolescents & the first to ask adolescents
if they had ever been victims of violence in a dating situation. Previous studies have come up with similar statistics, though
with smaller numbers of subjects & a more restricted focus.
A study by Dr. Ralph DiClemente & his colleagues at Emory Univ., which appeared in the journal Pediatrics in May,
found that 18% of 522 black girls from 14 to 18 years old reported having been physically abused
by a dating partner w/in the previous 6 months.
Dr. Silverman said he thought the most striking finding of the new study was the strong link between dating violence & risky behavior.
For example, in the 1999 survey, being the victim of sexual violence by a dating partner was also associated with binge drinking; laxative use or vomiting to lose weight; not using a condom during sexual intercourse; having 3 or more sexual partners within the previous 3 months
& having been pregnant.
Girls who had experienced both physical
& sexual abuse were also more likely to report cocaine, nicotine & alcohol use; unhealthy weight-control practices; suicide attempts; pregnancy & to say that they had first had sexual intercourse when they were younger than 15.
But Dr. Silverman said it wasn't possible to tell from the study whether such risky behaviors preceded the dating violence
or were the result of the abuse. Other
studies, he noted, had found high rates of depression among adult battered women.
"A plausible explanation would be
that adolescent women are also suffering from depression due to the abuse & degradation they have suffered that is making them more vulnerable," he said.
According to estimates by the Justice Department, more than 1.5 million women experience physical or sexual violence by a boyfriend, husband or date each year in the US.
Children from ‘risky families’ suffer serious long-term health consequences, UCLA scientists report
In the 1st study to analyze more than a decade of research showing how a family’s social environment influences
physical & mental health, a team of UCLA scientists found strong evidence that children who grow up in “risky families”
often suffer lifelong health problems, including some of society’s most common serious ailments, such as cancer, heart
disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression & anxiety disorders, as well as early death.
The UCLA scientists found large numbers of studies that reveal a pattern of serious long-term health consequences for
children who grow up in homes marked by conflict, anger & aggression; that are emotionally cold, unsupportive; & where children’s needs are neglected.
don't show up until decades later, while others are evident by adolescence.
“Poor health begins early
in life, as does good health,” said Rena Repetti, associate professor of psychology at UCLA & lead author of the
article, in the current issue of the journal Psychological Bulletin. “Growing up in risky families creates a cascade
of risk, beginning early in life, which puts a child not only at immediate risk, but also at long-term & lifelong risk
for a wide variety of physical & mental health ailments.”
Repetti & her colleagues spent 6 years analyzing more than 500 psychological, medical & biological research
studies & integrated the findings of psychologists, pediatricians, biologists, neuroscientists, social workers & other
scientists. Her co-authors are Shelley Taylor, UCLA professor of psychology & Teresa Seeman, UCLA professor of medicine.
While many people separate physical & mental health, research shows that physical & mental health may not be
as separate as is often assumed & that our brains & bodies may be more closely connected, Repetti said.
The research studies reveal that a child’s genetic predispositions interact w/the environment & in risky families,
a child’s genetic risk may be exacerbated. This combination can lead to the faster development of health problems, which
may be more debilitating than they would be in a more nurturing family, Repetti said.
Children who grow up in risky families are also more likely as teenagers & adults to engage in drug & alcohol abuse, smoking, risky sexual behavior & aggressive, anti-social behavior, the UCLA analysis showed.
Many of the studies analyzed provide evidence that teenagers who abuse drugs & engage in risky sex are more likely to have hostile, unsatisfying & non-supportive relationships w/their parents, Repetti said.
“Substance abuse & risky sexual behavior may help these adolescents compensate for their emotional, social & biological
deficiencies,” Repetti said. “Early & promiscuous sexual behavior & substance use may help adolescents manage negative emotions & feel accepted in the absence of adequate emotion coping strategies or social skills. Some of these risky health behaviors, such as substance abuse, self-medicate some of the deficits in brain neurochemistry that may occur in risky families.
“It may be the kids who are
most lacking in social skills, problem-solving & conflict-management skills who are most likely to turn to substance abuse or risky sexual behavior as a way to gain acceptance,” she said.
“If the family environment
was supportive & nurturing all along, they'd be more likely to have the social skills to gain acceptance by their peers & the ability to regulate their emotions. Healthy families enable children to grow up without the need for risky behavior to address these deficits.”
Children who observe family members responding to conflict by yelling & hitting often grow up without learning the problem-solving skills that other children learn,
Children who grow up in high-conflict or abusive homes are also much more vigilant to threats than other children & may overreact to minor threats. That vigilance, which may protect them from dangers at home, can cause them social problems later when they make hostile attributions to what may be innocent actions by others.
“When they trip over another
child’s foot on the schoolyard, they're ready for a fight because they believe the other child did it on purpose,” Repetti said. “They make the hostile attribution, while a child who grew up in a less angry & aggressive family is more likely to consider the possibility that it was just an accident. That vigilance &
those hostile attributions may get children in trouble in school, but in high-conflict & aggressive homes, vigilance for threat & assuming hostile intent may actually protect them from harm.”
The studies show that in addition to suffering from a wide variety of physical health problems, children from families
marked by conflict & aggression are at an increased risk for behavioral & emotional problems, including aggression, delinquency, depression, anxiety & suicide, Repetti said. She added that the accumulation of evidence from many different kinds of studies
Poverty & the descent into poverty often “appear to move parenting in more harsh, punitive & coercive
directions,” Repetti said, although risky families are also found in middle & upper income homes.
Newton, C. J., Domestic Violence: An Overview.
TherapistFinder.net Mental Health Journal